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Locked away in an archive for 150 years, a collection of 500 fairytales has been rediscovered by German cultural curators. The stories were recorded in the middle of the 19th century by oral historian Franz Xaver von Schönwerth. "Von Schönwerth spent decades asking country folk, labourers and servants about local habits, traditions, customs and history, and putting down on paper what had only been passed on by word of mouth." In one story, a princess escapes an evil witch by turning herself into a lake. When the unsuspecting witch drinks the lake dry, the princess returns to her original form and cuts her way out of the witch from the inside.

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Von Schönwerth was a contemporary of the more famous Grimm brothers, who likewise travelled the countryside recording the oral traditions of local populations. In 1885, Jacob Grimm said about Von Schönwerth: "Nowhere in the whole of Germany is anyone collecting [folklore] so accurately, thoroughly and with such a sensitive ear." Grimm even told Bavaria's King, Maximilian II, that the only person who could replace him in his and his brother's work was Von Schönwerth. While the Grimm brothers searched for their own literary style, Von Schönwerth was more dutiful in his work, making no attempt to romanticize or polish the tales.

Read one of the tales at the Guardian

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